We've done that, too -- asked "where" before we even knew "what." The text reads, "Where is cobalt? What is cobalt? These are queries from every point of the compass." From Hearst's International, 1906.
A: From the German for "demon, imp," cobalt is a byproduct from nickel and copper ores and is used as a component of magnetic alloys. In the context of the article, the "where" is the area formerly known as New Ontario.